Turkmenistan has been governed since 2007 by
the authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
and his power over the Turkmenistan Democratic Party (TDP).
Since Berdimuhamedow succeeded the dictator Saparmurat
Nijazov, he has carried out political reforms such as
multi-party systems and increased freedom of the press.
However, these soon turned out to be just paper
products. Berdimuhamedow is accused, like Nijazov, of
suppressing opposition and violating the human rights of
When Nijazov suddenly passed away in December 2006, a
new election for the presidential post was announced
until February 2007. For the first time, several people
were allowed to run for office, but all were members of
the ruling party TDP. Winners became Deputy Prime
Minister Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who received over 90
percent of the vote. He had been acting head of state
since Nijazov's death.
Country facts and history of Turkmenistan, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The new president promised political reforms while
saying he wanted to follow Nijazov's paved path. Some
signs of thunderstorms could be discerned.
Berdimuhamedow settled with the cult of personality that
Nijazov cultivated around himself (see Modern History).
Her decision to name the months and weekdays after her
family members was upheld. Opera, ballet and circus were
allowed again, and the hospitals that Nijazov closed
closed again. Pensioners who had been deprived of their
pensions were again paid money. The Internet, which had
been heavily regulated, became somewhat more accessible
to the small group of residents who could afford to
connect. In 2008, Berdimuhamedow passed constitutional
amendments that restored the legislative power to
Parliament, but at the same time strengthened the
Multiparty systems were also introduced, but when
parliamentary elections were held in December 2008, only
TDP was allowed to stand, as well as regime-loyal but
formally independent politicians. Opposition politicians
who were not in exile were discriminated against when
registering for the elections. The OSCE felt that it was
not even worthwhile to monitor the election, so the
organization felt it was inadequate. Officially, the
turnout was reported to have exceeded 90 percent, the
opposition spoke of less than 30 percent.
The rope ceases
Soon, Berdimuhamedow switched grip on power. In 2009,
the rulers of the Nijazov era were cleared out and in
2010 he let down the gold statue of Nijazov that adorned
the capital of Ashgabat city center. In the shadow of
similar reform-friendly symbolism, the regime returned
to repressive methods. Oppression increased against
opposition and human rights activists, citizens were
forbidden to leave the country, foreign inspectors were
not allowed to visit prisons and freedom of the press
Berdimuhamedow began cultivating a cult of
personality around himself. In October 2011,
Berdimuhamedow was awarded the title "Turkmenistan's
Hero" by the so-called Elder Council, which consists of
around 600 people aged 60 and up. Nijazov received this
award three times. Other titles given to Berdimuhamedow
are Arkadag (The Guardian of the Mountain) and the
People's Horse Breeders. In 2015, a golden statue was
erected in the capital depicting Berdimuhamedow on a
horse. Reading of the president's own "literary works"
has been ordered from high school onwards.
In the February 2012 presidential election, eight
people were elected, including Berdimuhamedow. The
victory was given in advance and according to the
Election Commission, the sitting president was
re-elected with just over 97 percent of the vote.
Later that year, Berdimuhamedow announced that a
second party would be registered alongside the
Turkmenistan Democratic Party, namely the Party of
Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (TSTP), who, through a
June 2013 election, got its first member in parliament.
Critics felt that the election was a politically
insignificant attempt by the regime to respond to
criticism of the one-party system.
Elections with an "opposition party"
In June 2013, the President announced that
parliamentary elections with more than one party would
be held in December. That same summer, Berdimuhamedow
announced that he was resigning as leader of the TDP, on
the grounds that the country's president should be
party-politically independent in a multi-party system.
He also explained that other leading politicians and
government officials would no longer be party members.
It soon became clear that only TSTP would be
symbolically allowed to challenge TDP. The real
opposition was outlawed and in exile. Amnesty
International noted that the election did not entail a
change in the regime's "total repression".
The election result gave the government party and its
support groups (trade unions, women's and youth
organizations, community groups) 111 of the 125 seats.
The Party for industrialists and entrepreneurs received
14 seats. Independent observers highlighted how unequal
conditions have been to TDP's advantage during the
election movement, for example as regards space in the
media. The observers also emphasized that irregularities
often occurred during the election process.
After the election, the government continued to
announce cosmetic political reforms, as well as to
introduce new repressive methods against opponents. The
members of the TSTP in the new parliament soon turned
out to vote in accordance with the regime's political
line on all matters of importance.
Elections with two "opposition parties"
From 2016, Turkmenistan experienced a growing
economic crisis due to declining revenues from oil and
natural gas. The social turmoil in society increased as
the regime abolished or lowered the level of several
subsidies on basic commodities such as fuel,
electricity, gas, water and certain foods. In several
parts of the country, repeated protests against food
shortages and deteriorating living conditions.
In September 2016, a new constitution was adopted
(see Political system), which among other things means
that the age limit of 70 years was abolished for the
president. Thus, Berdimuhamedow could also continue to
run for president. At the same time, President
Berdimuhamedow announced that a third party, the
regime-loyal Turkmenistan Farmers' Party (TAP), would be
allowed to stand with candidates in the 2018 elections.
In February 2017, President Berdimuhamedow was
re-elected with just over 97 percent of the vote. He was
symbolically challenged by six formally independent
candidates as well as a candidate from the TSTP and an
In the March 2018 parliamentary elections, TDP
received 55 seats, TSTP 11 seats and the new TAP
received 11 seats. The remaining 48 seats went to the
regime's support groups.
From the middle of the 2010s, it became increasingly
clear that Berdimuhamedow's eldest son, Serdar, was
meant to be his successor. The son was elected to
Parliament in 2016, was appointed Deputy Foreign
Minister 2018 and Governor of Ahal in 2019.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
Turkmenistan Respublikasy / Republic of Turkmenistan
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (2007–)
Head of government
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (2007–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
Turkmenistan Democratic Party (TDP) 55, Regimented
Groupings 48, Party for Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
(TSTP) 11, Turkmenistan's Farmers Party (TAP) 11 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Turkmenistan Democratic Party (TDP) 47, Regimented
Groupings 64, Party for Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
(TSTP) 14 (2013)
97% in the February 2017 presidential elections, 92%
in the March 2018 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections